NASA, South Korea and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together to create a space-based instrument called “Virtual Constellation” — a way to record global air quality in unprecedented detail,media reported. Together, scientists will be able to track pollution from space every hour for the first time.
On February 18, local time, the first part of the instrument launched was South Korea’s Geosynchronous Environmental Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS), which was mounted on a South Korean satellite tasked with monitoring the ocean’s surface. NASA said at a press conference today (March 9, local time) that it plans to launch an almost identical instrument into space in 2022 with a commercial communications satellite. This will be followed by two esA instruments that will join existing air quality monitoring satellites , the first of which will be launched in 2023.
The data collected by these instruments will help control contaminants including nitrogen dioxide, smoke, formaldehyde and aerosols. Hourly data better capture severity of pollution, such as rush-hour traffic or power plants that open to meet peak power demand. In addition, the satellite-mounted instruments will be able to see whether the pollution in one area originated there or from another country.
“The most exciting thing is to get these sources of pollution and transportation (information) at different times of the day,” Barry Lefer, nasa’s project manager for Earth Science, said in a press release today. We will be able to get more accurate air quality and air pollution forecasts because we will understand the sources of pollution and how they change over time. “
Older space instruments can only measure air pollution once a day. GEMS became the first air quality sensor to orbit the Earth in geosynchronous orbit, allowing it to make continuous observations of the same area.
GEMS will monitor aerosols and smog over Asia, and the data will be released next year. NASA will monitor pollution from oil and gas fields, ships and rigs in North America, as well as peak-hour traffic conditions. ESA is working to improve the accuracy of its daily air quality forecasts and will focus on Europe and North Africa. In addition to these goals, the data collected could improve their understanding of a range of air quality problems affecting human health, the scientists involved in the project said.